Buenos Aires [Argentina], August 28 (ANI): Hero MotoSports Team Rally has started its campaign at the fourth and penultimate round of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship 2023 - the Desafio Ruta 40 YPF - on a strong footing.
This is the Team's first appearance at DR40 - one of two American races added to the W2RC 2023 calendar. Back on South American soil after many years, this race brings back lots of great memories for the team, as its route crosses several venues that were part of the Latin American Dakar editions, including the team's first two Dakar appearances in 2017 and 2018.
Hero MotoSports is represented by factory riders Ross Branch and Sebastian Buhler at the rally. Competing in the Rally GP class, Ross and Buhler finished the Prologue stage in the 9th and 10th positions respectively- only 8 and 15 seconds behind the top spot, respectively. These results place the riders in decent positions to start the first Stage.
After successfully completing the administrative and technical scrutiny at the Estadio Superdomo de La Rioja on August 26th (Saturday), the competitors took to the start line for the Prologue on August 27th (Sunday) - a short 9 kilometres around La Rioja. The terrain was quite slippery, and gave the competitors a first real taste of the demanding week that lies ahead.
This year marks the return of the Desafio Ruta 40, which ran for 10 editions between 2010 and 2018. Incidentally, Argentina also hosted the Dakar 10 times in a row, from 2009 to 2018. The DR40 gets its name from the Ruta Nacional 40, Argentina's most important route that runs for over 5000 kms across the length of the country, alongside the mighty Andes.
The 11th Desafio Ruta 40 is taking place in the northern parts of Argentina, hosted across three major provinces - La Rioja, Catamarca, and Salta. The 5-day race seeks to traverse a gruelling 2804 km route covering a wide variety of terrains - including off-track sections, dry riverbeds, sandy stretches, salt flats, dunes and rivers. Navigation is going to be key this week, as competitors speed through these breathtaking yet tricky landscapes.
The team also remembers with gratitude that their erstwhile pilot, the late Paulo"Speedy" Goncalves, who was the winner of the last edition of the DR40, in 2018 - even though he was racing with another team back then.
The first official stage of the Desafio Ruta 40 YPF 2023 is scheduled on Monday, August 28, taking the riders on a 700 km route through the high-altitude region of La Rioja. The competitors will return to the bivouac in La Rioja, before shifting base up north towards Catamarca, in Stage 2.
Recharged and rejuvenated from a short break after their last outing at the Sonora Rally in Mexico, the team is excited about this championship race. In June 2023, the team also participated in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana - where Ross Branch won the title for the 8th time in his career.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally: "We are really excited to be back at a race in South America after a long break since Dakar 2019, and especially in Argentina after about 5 years. It is our first time at the Desafio Ruta 40, and it's also the first time Argentina is hosting the World Rally Raid Championship. The rally's route is quite vibrant and challenging, and it's going to be intense with a wide range of terrains across the three different provinces.""Ross and Sebastian are in great shape, and we are confident of a powerful performance here in Argentina. We are missing our teammate JRod here, and hope to see him back in action soon. The prologue went well, and we look forward to the first stage," he added.
Ross Branch: "I am so happy to be finally here in Argentina! The prologue was a bit slippery and more intense than I expected, but it was great fun to be back on the bike, racing after a 3-month break. I think it's going to be a tough rally, and navigation is going to be key. I am happy to be back here with the team, and looking forward to a great week of racing!"Sebastian Buhler: "The Prologue stage here at Ruta 40 was on some nice tracks, but extremely slippery. The result is not the best, but we will take on the fight from stage 1. It is going to be a really long and tough race, but we are ready to take on this challenge."Provisional Rankings- Prologue Stage (Rally GP Class)1. Adrien Van Beveren Monster Energy Honda Team 6m 48s2. Luciano Benavides Husqvarna Factory Racing 1s3. Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team 2s9. Ross Branch Hero MotoSports Team Rally 8s10. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally 15s. (ANI)